Senate follows House lead, introduces MACT repair legislation

By Lisa Gibson | July 20, 2011

Just weeks after representatives in the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee introduced bipartisan legislation pushing for more time dedicated to fixing the Maximum Achievable Control Technology rules, the Senate has fallen in line and crafted a similar bill.

The Senate bill, introduced July 20, would establish a clear timetable for reissuance of the regulations, which have been a major concern for a number of industries since the final versions were released in February. U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., Mary Landrieu, D-La., Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Pat Toomey, R-Penn., made clear in their bill the need for achievable and reasonable emission standards.

Along with a definition of solid waste, the MACT regulations encompass standards for major source industrial, commercial and institutional boilers and process heaters; area source industrial, commercial and institutional boilers; commercial and industrial solid waste incinerators; and sewage sludge incinerators. The solid waste definition is crucial in determining which category a technology will fall under, as solid waste incinerators are subject to more stringent numerical emission limits.

Like the House bill introduced in June, the Senate’s bill would grant the EPA an extension of 15 months to repropose and finalize the regulations. It would also extend compliance deadlines from three years to five; clarify that renewable and carbon-neutral remain classified as fuel and not solid waste; and direct the EPA to ensure that the new rules are achievable by real-world technologies and employ the least burdensome regulator alternatives. The wording in the last objective is similar to that of the House bill.

"EPA itself has admitted that its boiler rules need to be fixed," Sen. Wyden said. "As they are written now, the rules will stymie the burgeoning biomass energy industry and make it very difficult for existing lumber and wood products mills to operate. This legislation directs the EPA to go back to the drawing board and craft boiler rules that are more in line with what is realistic for mills and factories and does not restrict future use of biomass energy."

The EPA had in fact asked for a 15-month extension past its initial January 2011 deadline to repropose the rules, after receiving almost 5,000 comments on its proposal released in April 2010. The extension was denied and the agency was given just one extra month. When the final rules were released in February, the EPA promised a reconsideration period and announced in June that it would last until October. Subsequently, any changes to the rules will be finalized by April 2012. The rules were published to the Federal Register in March, but a stay remains in place for the standards pertaining to major source boilers and commercial and industrial solid waste incinerators.

Donna Harman, president and CEO of the American Forest & Paper Association, applauded the Senate’s legislation, saying it’s critical in providing the opportunity for job creation and protection of public health to come together in achieving affordable, achievable standards. “EPA has acknowledged that significant portions of the Boiler MACT rules require changes to be achievable under real-world operating conditions,” she said. “At the same time, the rules and EPA’s administrative stay are being challenged in court. Legislation is the only way to guarantee EPA has the time they say they need to fix these rules, as well as to correct the Non-Hazardous Secondary Materials rule to clearly define fuels that are traditionally used in boilers, such as carbon-neutral, renewable biomass residuals. Introduction of this bipartisan Senate legislation is an important step toward providing businesses with a level of operational certainty while more reasonable rules are established, allowing the opportunity to preserve and create much needed manufacturing jobs.”